The role of human rights education

The issue of fundamental rights and freedoms is, without a doubt, a constant concern of international human rights law scholars. In our opinion, we believe that since the end of the 18th Century, the concept of ‘human rights’ has evolved, passing through a continuous metamorphosis and moving to a new stage of development, to become what we know to be today, the international human rights system.Adopted on December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed for the first time the term human rights. Chairing the drafting committee, Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested that the term used until then the ‘Rights of Man’ be changed to ‘Human Rights,’ given the differences of what these rights meant to different countries. These rights are inherent to all human beings and to have freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere.

Many organizations focus on the fight against inequalities, injustice and demand for these freedoms. However, a resilient democratic society as we live in nowadays needs more than just fights and finger pointing. We need solutions. In my almost ten-year career working as a human rights advocate, I have come to understand that we can do more by educating people about their human rights. Using the free educational materials provided by Youth for Human Rights International and the interactive videos, to teach students, community leaders, and even government officials, I was able to see change when human rights education is implemented. Starting from a small community to effecting change in different countries.

The dream of Eleanor Roosevelt and drafters of the declaration was that they be taught everywhere, anywhere. In the end, how can you stand up or defend your rights if you don’t know what they are? While the fight for the defense of human rights is important, it should not be overlooked the means by which this fight can be prevented altogether. And that is achieved through education. The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself proclaims that “every individual and every organ of society […] shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms.” Therefore, the real intention behind the declaration was first of all, to promote knowledge and understanding of human rights.

Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual. What human rights teach you is not only to defend your own rights, but also to respect other people’s rights. Because your right ends where the rights of others begin. Only through human rights education we are able to give due importance to these rights and remind ourselves why they must not be neglected.

by Isabelle Vladoiu, Founder

US Institute of Diplomacy and Human Rights

*Article published in the local Pakistani newspaper from Toba Tek Singh Siyasi edition, March 23, 2020